New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Opens Fracking Floodgates

Coming on the heels of a neighboring state fracking ban in New Jersey, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, will make a momentous announcement at a press conference this morning: the moratorium on drilling for methane gas in New York's Marcellus Shale play is over, according to the New York Times.

Fracking, more formally known as hydraulic fracturing, is the ecologically lethal process through which methane gas is procured (the industry term being "natural" gas), and during which numerous cases of groundwater contamination have been documented. Though hyped by the methane gas industry and President Barack Obama as "America's Clean Energy Future," other than mere water contamination, it has been scientifically documented by researchers at Cornell University that the entire emissions process for methane gas is dirtier than that of coal.

June has featured two large-scale protests against fracking, one in Pennsylvania on June 7, another in New York on June 25, both of which called for a total ban on the process, with no ifs, ands, or buts.

Despite the copiously-documented ecological danger inherent in the unconventional drilling process and in the methane gas emissions process, as well as the visible anti-fracking sentiment of the people living in the Marcellus Shale region, Cuomo has decided it's "go time." Other than in New York City's watershed, inside a watershed used in the city of Syracuse, in underground water sources deemed important in cities and towns, as well on state lands, spanning from parks and wildlife preserves, 85% of the state's lands are now fair game for fracking, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

All of that said, it's not game over yet -- not by a long shot. Pro Publica reporter Nicholas Kusnetz explains the process that will unfold in the weeks and months to come:

Cuomo has asked the DEC to complete its review by tomorrow. According to Michael Bopp, a DEC spokesman, the department will give the governor a version of the revised environmental review, as requested. But that update will not be the official draft that still has to work its way through the legal permitting process, Bopp said. He did not say when that draft will be released. Once it is, state law requires that the draft go through a public comment period of at least 30 days before regulators can write the final rules. All of which means it will likely be at least a few months -- perhaps next spring -- before the type of hydraulic fracturing used in the Marcellus Shale can be allowed in the state, with or without a ban from the governor.

That means there's plenty of time to mobilize for the citizens of New York state. The fight's not over -- indeed, it has only just begun.

*Please see an open letter to Gov. Cuomo written by anti-fracking activist and journalist Maura Stephens, co-founder of the environmental organization Coalition to Protect New York.